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Boys in New York buried for hours in snow pile | TribLIVE.com
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Boys in New York buried for hours in snow pile

The Associated Press
| Friday, November 28, 2014 10:21 p.m
ChildrenBuriedinSnowJPEG00cd2
The snowbank in which cousins Jason Rivera and Elijah Martinez built their snow fort sits at the corner of a parking lot in Newburg, N.Y., Friday, Nov. 28, 2014. The boys were trapped for seven hours after a plow truck pushed snow on top of their fort but a local police officer saw footprints and a partially buried shovel so he started digging. Rivera and Martinez were eventually freed from five feet of plowed snow. (AP Photo/Times Herald Record, Allyse Pullman)
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Nine-year-old Jason Rivera, left, and Elijah Martinez, 11, appear at a news conference, Friday, Nov. 28, 2014, at Westchester Medical Center's Maria Fareri Children's Hospital in Valhalla, N.Y. The boys spent seven hours trapped in the snow the night before until an alert police officer saw a shovel half buried and started to dig. (AP Photo/Times Herald-Record, Leonard Sparks)

NEWBURGH, N.Y. — Two boys trapped in a snow pile for about seven hours after a plow buried them could hear their worried family’s cries but could not respond loudly enough to be heard, they said Friday. Police credited an air pocket with saving their lives.

The two cousins, 11-year-old Elijah Martinez and 9-year-old Jason Rivera, were building a snow fort Wednesday night across the street from Elijah’s apartment in Newburgh when a plow operator clearing a parking lot unknowingly pushed snow over them.

Buried in about 5 feet of snow, they could barely move and couldn’t breathe very well, so they could do nothing as they heard the anguished cries nearby. Jason lost his gloves. His hat flew off. They relied on each other to stay alive, they said, sharing Elijah’s face mask to try to keep their hands warm and talking to each other so they wouldn’t fall asleep.

“I felt so tired. It didn’t feel real that they were coming to get us,” Elijah said at a news conference in the hospital where the boys were recovering.

Meanwhile, their parents were growing more frantic, calling police and searching through the snowy streets for the children who were mere feet from the apartment.

“I just kept telling myself: ‘This is not true. This is not real,’ ” said Jason’s mom, Aulix Martinez. “It was just scary, and as time went on, it got scarier. I was begging the police to please find them.”

Neighbor Takiaya Stevens told The Associated Press that police rallied help for the search.

“The cops were coming to all the neighbors’ houses. They were knocking on doors. They were ringing bells asking for shovels, asking for help,” she said. “The neighbors came out. Everyone tried to join in the search for the little boys.”

About 2 a.m., Officer Brandon Rola spotted footprints that were disappearing as more snow fell. Then, he saw a shovel.

“I felt led to dig,” he said.

Rescuers saw the sole of a child’s boot and then motion, digging faster as residents joined in the rescue, some with their bare hands in the pile of packed, wet snow.

“When I first hit the boot, you just try and stay positive and hopeful,” Rola said. “You get that ray of hope, and everybody just started working together trying to get these kids out. And as the snow kept coming off, you started to see more and more movement, and then you started to hear the voices and it was a very great feeling.”

Rola said seeing the look of joy and hope on the boys’ faces was a terrific feeling.

The boys were conscious but suffering from exposure.

“I felt so happy,” Elijah said. “Everything we went through just fell right off my back.”

“I’m just glad they got that big block off my chest; that was heavy,” Jason said.

They were very thankful for the officer who found them.

“I want him to be proud for what he did. I want him to have a good Thanksgiving, because he’s a hero,” Elijah said.

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